Someday when his playing days are finished – and hopefully, that’s many years from now – Aaron Bates would like to work in the front office of a major league team. So what did this aspiring talent evaluator think of Boston’s off-season acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Bobby Jenks?
“If you have the money to spend, it’s hard to disagree with the moves that they made,” Bates told me. “The money that they spent is unbelievable, so if you have it, there’s nothing wrong with spending it.”
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
But Aaron wasn’t simply impressed with the Red Sox willingness to splurge. One of the reasons why Bates hopes to eventually work in a front office is that he thinks his playing experience gives him an understanding of clubhouse dynamics. He says the Red Sox not only added All-Star players, but good teammates as well.
“I think that’s almost more important than pure talent,” Bates said. “You have to have good players, but how the clubhouse interacts and how the veterans take the young guys under their wings is a big key. There’s not one right way to do it – you can have a team with a bunch of young guys or a bunch of crazy guys like the Red Sox in 2004, but the make-up of the team is so important. If you’re going to have a good team, you have to care about the guy next to you.
“The guys they added are already fitting into the clubhouse. When you have veteran guys that have been there for awhile, you don’t want to disturb things. I think the Red Sox did an amazing job of researching those players.”
Aaron’s best position is first base, and he can also play left field. As a result, the acquisitions of Gonzalez (1B) and Crawford (LF) did not help his chances of eventually being an everyday player in Boston. Additionally, with Lars Anderson expected to be the primary first baseman in Pawtucket this year, and Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, and Daniel Nava projected to begin the season in Triple-A, the PawSox outfield appears crowded as well. But Bates says he isn’t worried about what he can’t control.
“I think it’s going to be a great year for me,” Aaron said. “I’m really relaxed and I have a good mindset and I’m not worried about any of the other things. I don’t know (about my role) – we’ll see what happens with the big league club and how it trickles down. I’m probably a little bit farther down the depth chart than I was at this time last year but that’s the way it goes. I feel good about this year and whatever my role may be now, I think at some point during the season the roles always change. I’m still young so I’m going to play wherever they want me to play, and I just have a lot of confidence and feel good about things.”
Last year was Aaron’s first full-season in Triple-A and he batted .240 (.338 OBP) with 12 HR and 54 RBI. The 27-year-old showed improvement during the season as he batted .281 (.376 OBP) after the All-Star break.
Six weeks after Pawtucket’s season ended, Bates headed to Puerto Rico to play first base for Criollos de Caguas. He wound up playing winter ball until February 8th, as Caguas won the league championship in Puerto Rico and advanced to the Caribbean World Series.
“When we won the title in Puerto Rico, it was probably one of the better things that I’ve ever been a part of,” Bates said. “It was a seven game series and every game was sold out. It was the loudest crowd that I’ve even played in front of with the horns and Japanese thundersticks. Alex Cora was our second baseman and he said it was louder in these games than playing in the World Series in Colorado when he was with the Red Sox.
“Playing in the Caribbean World Series helped me out because I came down here ready to go. I joked with our strength coordinator that I’m in mid-season form already.”
Shortly after returning to the US from Puerto Rico, Aaron got engaged to his girlfriend Lacey Wilson who represented Massachusetts last year in the Miss USA Pageant. Last October, they attended the funeral of Ben Mondor, and Aaron says he’ll miss the beloved PawSox owner when he returns to Pawtucket this season.
“He was an unbelievable owner and it’s really weird that he’s not going to be around to be honest with you,” Bates said. “The things that he did for his players, and all that he did for the franchise was unbelievable. I think he was fan-friendly and just a guy that got it. He understood how to bring the fans together and he wasn’t just about making a dollar. It was more about the fan experience and the end result was that he probably made some money too. But the experience of going to see the Pawtucket Red Sox is why the place is packed in the summertime and Ben understood that kind of stuff.”
Bates is not on the Red Sox major league roster this spring, but he has appeared in four of Boston’s exhibition games and had a triple last Friday in a 9-3 win over Houston.
“I had a triple and Wags (Mark Wagner) had two triples,” Bates said. “I actually used his helmet, so it had three triples in it which is kind of sweet. I’ve been swinging the bat really well. I’m just relaxing and having fun playing baseball.”
The front office job can wait.
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